By Joe Neil Clayton
We read in the New Testament that when Moses was about to make the Tabernacle, he was “warned” by God, who said; “See that you make all things according to the pattern that was showed you in the mount.” (Hebrews 8:5). Either God simply wanted to impress Moses with the importance of obedience, or else he had a larger purpose.
There was an order of worship planned for die Tabernacle, and this design had to fit the floor plan of the House itself, of course. But, God had other designs that demanded care in die building of the Tabernacle. These designs would span the centuries until Christ came to build His church.
As the Holy Spirit “moved” the writers of the New Testament to speak of the church, or of the system of religion that belonged to the age of Christ, they used the pattern of the Tabernacle to emphasize New Testaments truths. One of the larger of these truths is that the church is called the house of God, even as the Tabernacle was called the same. In Ex. 34:26, we learn that the Tabernacle was called the “house of Jehovah thy God.” The Apostle Paul uses the very similar expression “house of God” to refer to the “church of the living God, the pillar and Wound of the truth.” (I Tim. 3:15). Paul develops this truth into a statement packed with descriptive facts about the church, calling it the Temple, “A habitation of God in the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:19-22).
The New Testament writers also found ways (again. by the motivation of the Holy Spirit) to adapt the furnishings of the Tabernacle to New Testament concepts. In this way, the altar of burnt offerings is replaced by the cross, and the animal sacrifices by the body of Christ (Heb 13:10-15). As the altar of incense came to be connected with a time of prayer (Psalms 141:2, Luke 1:9-10), so the prayers of saints in New Testament language are connected with burning incense in a figurative way (Rev. 5:8, 8:3-4). The Laver of water is referred to in connection with cleansing (Heb. 10: 19-22), and the great veil of the Temple is said to be representative of the body of Christ, in the same passage.
The most significant ceremony involving the Tabernacle was the Atonement. Once a year the High Priest made a solemn journey into the room called the Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies. Since atonement is emphasized in the Old Testament as the most important of Tabernacle events, it follows that we should expect some New Testament fulfillment of the shad y Old Testament form.
First, we find that the writer of Hebrews demonstrates the significance of the single event with the words, “. . . the Holy Spirit this signifying that the way into the holy place has not yet been made manifest, while the firs tabernacle is yet standing.” (Heb. 9:8). God was not saving that he was letting the High Priest in, bat that he was keeping others out, according to this New Testament writer. Jus what was this place from which God excluded men while the first Tabernacle stood? It was the place which held the “mercy seat of God” (Heb. 9:3-5). However, the writer of Hebrews tells us that the figurative message of the Holy 4 Holies is that it represented Heaven (Heb. 9: 11-12, 24). Now, we see that the way into heaven was not “made manifest,” while the first Tabernacle stood. When the “more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands” appeared Christ as our High Priest of the New Covenant could enter and offer his “eternal” sacrifice. At the death of Christ, the veil of the Temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom (Mat. 27: 51). This meant that the writer of Hebrews could boldly announce that we could “enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” (Heb. 10: 19-20). The privilege to enter is a “hope both sure and steadfast and entering into that which is within the veil; whither as a forerunner Jesus entered for us, having become a high priest forever . . .” (Heb. 6:19-20).
When Paul says that God intended to “sum up all things in Christ,” we can add this lesson to the great heap of evidence in confirmation of this statement. It began with Moses, carefully following a pattern, so that the Holy Spirit could cause New Testament writers to tie their doctrine closely to that pattern. It all proves that God reigns, and that his revelations to two dispensations of time can be correlated completely. The side benefits come to us as evidence of the inspiration of the Bible, and in the glorification of the person of Christ.
Men should lift their eyes from the Tabernacles made with bands to the grand spiritual Temple of God which invites us to enter and share in the glories now revealed and seen clearly by faith. When men corrupt this beautiful spiritual vision with earthy concepts, they fail to receive the enticing vision of heaven that could serve to give them true hope.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 44, pp. 10-11
September 14, 1972